In “Bones and All,” Maren (Taylor Russell) is a young woman with a dark secret who struggles to find her way in the world while making sure to never be near any normal person’s focus. Along her journey, she encounters a number of people who share her condition and have found their own ways to deal with life away normal society. Each one teaches her varying lessons on how to survive on her own, though neither wishes her to be alone.
Luca Guadagnino and David Kajganich reteam after their success as director and writer (respectively) of Suspiria for another artistic-driven film adapted from other works. In this case, it is the award-winning novel of the same name by Camille DeAngelis and Guadagnino uses his very aesthetically-based visual style to make a young adult love story interlace itself into what seemingly is an interesting blend of horror and suspense. I am unsure if the point was to never let the audience relax, but if so it succeeds by being beautifully shot with no goal going unaccomplished.
Timothée Chalamet also works with the director again and continues his reign as the best actor under thirty and as expected he is the absolute best part of “Bones and All” as Maren’s love interest and closest confidant in their dark world. For a film that is often slow and methodical, his performance is pops off the screen in every frame he appears. Not to be outdone, Mark Rylance brings all the gravitas of an Academy Award winner to a role that could have easily become a laughingstock with as kitschy as he appears. Somehow, Rylance takes this caricature of a carny weirdo and travels the full journey from odd onlooker through caring mentor jumps to presenting betrayed reject and speeds right into horrifying monster. I am unsure how many actors could have handled that task without losing the ability to be completely believable. In the face of these magnificent performances, it could be hard to not attempt to match those around her and keep the organic feel of who Maren is, but Russell performs wonderfully in this subdued role. It made me feel for her and her struggle with their condition throughout the film… even though they are all monsters.
Despite the beautiful visuals and great performances, I still had some issues here. First off, almost everyone else who appears after the opening felt very amateurish and had distractingly poor performances, which could be a byproduct of the three performances just mentioned. I also carried issue with some of the hair and makeup choices… mostly the hair, with Russell’s bangs and Mark Rylance’s braid feeling so awkward that it came very close to overshadowing their performances. Lastly, as tends to happen for arthouse films for me, the pacing felt excessively glacial and overall made the two-hour ten-minute film feel dramatically longer than it was. There is one particular scene that in the middle act seemingly is intended to change that, but it didn’t need to be there and felt like it was only included so somebody said the title. It makes more sense for such a grounded picture to have a natural, handheld camera-to-human eye representation, but (and I say this to all filmmakers), please stop trying to give us motion sickness using a handheld driving offroad when there is no reason to convey that.
While I may not see “Bones and All” again, I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys suspense or drama. At its worst, it has one the best openings I have seen for a film in a very long time. Apologies for the vague lack of explanation, but it will be better to go in cold as I did. Trust me here.